“How do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does a life of gratitude look like when your days are gritty, long, and sometimes dark? What is God providing here and now? How do we live this one life well?” These are questions posed by author Ann Voskamp. She reminds us of these words from scripture: “Jesus took bread and gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them to eat.” The original Greek language of the Gospels translates “gave thanks” as eucharisteo. Many Christians call Holy Communion the Eucharist—a meal of thanksgiving. Long before the Pilgrims sat down with Native Americans to give thanks, Jesus sat with the disciples and gzve thanks. Just as the Pilgrims gave thanks in spite of the hardships of the new land, Jesus gave thanks in the face of impending death. Ann says, “As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.” Grace in the moment.
In the letter to the Philippians, Paul writes a happy letter brimming with joy—he doesn’t tell us that we can be happy or how to be happy. He simply and unmistakably is happy. The back story is Paul writes this letter from prison. He is now about 20 years into his mission work for Jesus and has faced much in those years. Yet his words in this letter are infectious with joy. “Rejoice in the Lord always and I again I say rejoice.” Here in the closing of the letter Paul tells one other thing he has learned.
10 I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned for me, but had no opportunity to show it. 11 Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. 12 I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Ann Voskamp introduces us to the word “eucharisteo” in her book “One Thousand Gifts”—a book written to tell about writing a list of 1,000 things she loves. The list began as a dare from a friend, but became the way Ann learned eucharisteo. At first it was through the list, but then she began to see eucharisteo through the pages the Bible. It is here in Paul’s letter that she reads, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have.” Twice Paul says, “I have learned….” Learned. Ann realized she would have to learn eucharisteo—learn it to live fully, to live content, to live thankful—whether empty or full. Eucharisteo—grace in the moment.
Part of my own discovery in reading this book and paying attention to eucharisteo in my own life is the realization that I’m not as practiced at giving thanks as I thought. I say thank you and I give thanks, but at times it seems almost rote and robotic as opposed to intentional and life giving. When I live with my hands open, filled with thanks, I open to grace. A contemporary of Martin Luther was a man named Erasmus. He wrote: “A nail is driven out by another nail; a habit is overcome by habit.” Writing one thousand gifts is the practice of driving out habits of discontent and driving in habits of thanksgiving, eucharisteo.
One hindrance to living this life of gratitude, this life of eucharisteo is the way we rush headlong through life. Ann says: “In our rushing, like bulls in china shops, we break our own lives.” In Psalm 46, verse 10, we read: “Be still, and know that I am God!” Jesus left the crowds and went to a place where he could be still. God’s invitation is to slow down and live fully in the moment. In a DVD produced as part of a study on “One Thousand Gifts,” Ann invites us to stay awake, slow down to see, to surrender, to savor the goodness of God.
So how did you do with your list this week? Take a moment to share with each other. What was a challenge to you in this process? Did you learn something?
Would you choose two or three things off your list—something out of the ordinary—and would you share that with me this week? Send me an email, a text, message me on Facebook, tweet it and follow me on Twitter so I can read yours. Post it on your Facebook page and friend me so I can read the post.
Or you can write it down and send it in a note or leave it in my box or call me on the phone. There will be some redundancy but I bet there will be some unique to each of us and our relationship with God.
Ann says that writing the lists was like unwrapping love. In the coming week as we make an effort to find some “slow down” moments, remember that every faith or spiritual practice and every spiritual teacher tells us that grace is found in the moment—the here and now, the “right in front of your face” now. Go into this week to unwrap love. Give thanks—eucharisteo. Find joy—eucharisteo. Live grace—eucharisteo. Be content and know that God is good. Name all the ways God loves us. May you find your “soul holes” are being healed.